The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Men’s Hoops: Better the (Blue) Devils you know …


In preparation for tonight’s Sweet Sixteen matchup with Duke, The Daily Utah Chronicle caught up with Nicholas Martin of The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, to get the inside scoop on the Blue Devils.

Courtesy of Emma Loewe / Duke Chronicle


GA: Everyone knows Duke is led by star center Jahlil Okafor, but who is the X-factor for this Blue Devil squad?

NM: Justise Winslow has been what I would call the X-factor for the Blue Devils through the first two games of the tournament. The Houston native is averaging 9.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in his first NCAA tournament and has been an offensive catalyst for the squad. There are few players in the country who can handle Winslow in transition, which will be key against a Utah squad that likes to slow things down.

Winslow will also have the advantage of playing in front of a home crowd, as the Saint John’s School product is making a homecoming to take part in this year’s Sweet 16. Although he referred to the trip as a “business trip,” there’s no doubt he’ll be looking to have a big performance in front of friends and family.


GA: Back to Okafor, he has been on a tear in the tournament thus far. Do you think the size of Utah can throw Okafor off his game a bit?

NM: I think Okafor has seen his fair share of big men — Frank Kaminsky, Rakeem Christmas, all the Florida State bigs — and at this point in the season, nothing will really come as a surprise to him. What will be the true question is whether or not Utah decides to double team the ACC Player of the Year. Most teams have taken that approach and leave the Duke guards open around the arc. If the Runnin’ Utes decide to let Poeltl go one-on-one with Okafor, the big man has proven that he can make teams pay and will likely go for another 20-point performance.


GA: Delon Wright is Utah’s best player and stands at 6-foot-5, a few inches taller than the Duke starting backcourt. How will the Blue Devils handle his length and ability come Friday night?

NM: Wright will be Utah’s best shot at toppling the No. 1 seed Blue Devils. He is one of the best scorers in the nation and will certainly be Duke’s top priority on defense. The Blue Devils have faced a similar scoring threat in the form of a large guard in Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant. Although they did a good job holding Grant in check in the second of two matchups with the Fighting Irish, Wright is a different player and will be the focal point all game long. This may leave other Utes open around the arc to drain the 3-pointers we all know they can knock down with ease.


GA: The Utes are a great defensive team but have never seen a team quite like Duke (except maybe Arizona). Will the Blue Devils be able to penetrate this solid defense of Utah’s?

NM: I think Duke will do a good job of playing inside-out through Okafor, who will surely get his like he has in the first two rounds. If Utah decides to double-team him, look for Winslow to do like he did against San Diego State and cut through the lane. But what the Blue Devils will need in addition to Winslow’s cutting and Okafor’s dominance is for Tyus Jones and Matt Jones to start knocking down some 3-pointers. Quinn Cook got off to a hot start against Robert Morris, and if Duke wants to advance to the Elite Eight, it will need some big-time production from the rest of its starting frontcourt.


GA: How do you see this game playing out? Score prediction?

NM: I have Duke winning this one 72-63. I think Okafor and Winslow continue to shine in the tournament and lead the Blue Devils to an Elite Eight appearance. However, if Wright goes off, all bets are off.

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